Why you should visit CA Wine Country in the fall
At this time of year the city is still thick with fog that labours over the bay like a blanket, or like quilt matting, or like that stuff Santas use to make their beards.
San Fran weather is a world of opposites. In September and early October the fog is still thick, waiting for the fall that warms into a typical Californian “winter”. This is not winter as anywhere else in the world knows winter, with the fog melting away to clear blue skies and sunny days fit for long walks along the beach to the Presidio, and long bike rides across the bridge to Sausalito and Tiburon.
In October the lingering chill of San Fran “summer” begins to lift. The air currents formed by Pacific Ocean winds and the hot deserts to the east create the cold pressure that fosters the unique brand of thick white August fog, which, by October, has finally begun the promise of melting away.
We hired some kind of Mazda sports car, and I sat quite happily mooshed in the back seat peering out the small triangular window at the endless green of the lush Californian countryside.
Bottle green fields stretched out from the line of the freeway to the mountains in the distance beyond. Northern California is so unlike the endless starved and brittle yellow and brown in our Australian paddocks back home.
As we approached the enterprises for which over generations the valleys have made their names, as far as the eye could see, the grass paddocks transformed into grapevines unmistakable with their almond-shaped leaves and rows of wooden stakes. Green vines, lush with life. Water. Sun. Blue skies. Endless green fields.
Here the vineyards grow in such abundance that some in the front gardens are grown row upon row simply for decoration. Stopping the car at one vineyard, we took it upon ourselves to pluck what we assume was an unneeded grape or two, and ate them like blueberries from the vine.
The “grapes”, unlike any “grape I’d ever tasted, burst in our mouths like blue blueberries.
The 107 room Castello di Amorosa rises astonishingly from its spot beside the freeway, settled among the rolling green vines beneath the endless blue Napa skies. The building’s size makes it easy to explore, without too many interruptions from the throngs.
We discovered the real beauty of Castello di Amorosa in the cellars at the heart of the castle. The cellar bar was serving tastings of the Sattui family’s renown reds. The bar was packed, but still a cool escape from the relentless Napa sun, and an ideal setting to taste the dry merlot, bold cab sauv and Tuscan blend.
Suffice to say, by the time we’d had a few tastes, we couldn’t help but walk out with several bottles.
Approaching the car we selected a few more grapes to pop into our parched mouths and mingle with those already infused on our palettes. In the midst of endless green, all this constant growth, and vines of endless grapes we breathed deeply the valley’s pastoral freedom and bucolic calm.
Before you cross the Golden Gate south into the city there is an exit to the west side of the freeway that leads steeply upwards to a carpark and lookout. The tourist buses choose to stop on the east side of the road, where the carpark is large enough to accommodate loads of tourists.
Pro-tip, head to the west instead. The steep road and carpark overlook the bridge, so you get a better view. From the north you can get shots of the city to the east with bridge in the foreground. You can see the fog passing gently over the bridge from the east. You can see the currents and the waters passing not-so-gently from the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate bottle-neck into the vast expanse of the bay.
From here you can also look directly south to Land’s End, and south west to the endless ocean stretching out to the horizon. The path that leads to Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, and all the world beyond.
Over the city lights the wall of fog shifts down from the north to engulf the bridge, until only the red pylons are visible reaching straight up and down towards the sky. Beyond it, Alcatraz is a black crag in the center of the bay and to the right, the city’s famous hills are clearly visible, gleaming white in the setting sun behind us, and the telecom tower on Twin Peaks beyond it.
Tell me you’re the heart of all the golden west
Love Liv xx